MCR Labs in Framingham was founded eight years ago by Michael Kahn, who decided to take his experience working in the pharmaceutical testing industry and pivot to cannabis. Now, the firm works with approximately 95% cannabis providers, growers and producers in the state, having developed relationships with companies dating back to when the legal marijuana market in Massachusetts was limited to medical use. It also just hired its 100th employee. Joe Crinkley, the company’s public relations manager, spoke with WBJ about what the world of cannabis testing entails, including how they serve a variety of different clients with different needs.
What does MCR Labs do?
MCR labs provides analytical cannabis testing services to licensed marijuana establishments through the state, and we also offer the same services to home growers. We offer the same level of testing to anybody who’s looking for it.
What that testing amounts to is product efficacy: Does the product do what consumers are hoping it to do? We also do product safety testing.
What are individual growers looking to test?
There are a number of medical patients who do grow their own, and they are looking for a certain profile of active ingredients, which would be cannabinoids and terpenes. Above and beyond that, many may have concerns their products have become moldy something along those lines. Cannabis holds substances from its growth media. So, we test for heavy metals and other things that can be pulled from that media.
Our main clients are the larger businesses licensed by the state. We just figured if there are medical marijuana patients in the state growing for themselves, we want them to have the same level of testing available.
Why did your founder pivot to cannabis?
He was actually working in the pharmaceutical industry testing space, and he had some connections to people who were helping to advocate for the medical marijuana bill. As he was speaking with them, when the law passed, they were trying to get licensing, and they wanted a testing protocol in place so they could ensure patients in the program would be safe. They mentioned to him no one was offering this testing and they had concerns about product safety. He saw an opportunity to get out of big business pharmaceutical testing and branch out on his own.
We were the first cannabis testing lab to be certified by the Massachusetts Department of Health, back when they were the ones regulating the medical marijuana program.
How do you quantify the amount of work you do?
The best way I can of sum it up is we’re testing for around 95% of the cannabis providers, growers and producers in the state. Almost 100% market share. Many of those organizations, if not all of them, do test in multiple labs, so it’s not like every product on the shelves has been tested by us. We test anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 samples each month.
How does the process work?
When a business comes online, they get their license, and they start inquiring about the design process. We provide them with guidelines about sampling and how much of the product we’ll need for each of our tests. Each test is a standalone test for a certain type of analysis. It’s kind of a la carte.
What they will do is they will collect a sample from their grow and that will be considered a batch, and they will bring us enough of the sample that we’re able to run all of the tests required by the state. Then, usually, we have some leftover in case there’s any irregularities or we need to run a test again.
Once their results are ready we provide them with a certificate of analysis saying a sample of that batch has been tested and has passed, and we put data into the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system. Once the marijuana establishment receives that certificate, the system basically gives them the okay to market it.
What about your work dispelling myths around cannabis?
We feel strongly science and testing plays a critical role in helping anybody skeptical of cannabis, or new to thinking about cannabis as a medical treatment, or even as a safe recreational drug. We feel science can go a long way to showing them it’s tested the same way many pharmaceuticals or food are. Cannabis is a well-regulated industry consumers should feel confident in.
This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Monica Busch.